You gotta love preschoolers. They’re curious, chatty and totally unfiltered, especially when it comes to asking probing questions about you and your body. Sometimes their queries are so embarrassing you’ll wish you could return to the infant days when you did all the talking. But instead of turning red and clamming up, aim to turn these awkward situations into teachable moments. Here’s a preview of what you’ll probably be asked, and a road map for answering:
1. “How did that baby get IN your belly?”
It’s exciting to share pregnancy news with older kids, but your growing belly is bound to provoke tricky questions like this one. Whenever I’m faced with an awkward question from my preschooler, I follow two rules of thumb: #1 Answer truthfully and #2 Keep it simple. A young child might be completely satisfied with “Daddy and I made the baby together” or “He gave me a seed, called a sperm, that helped Mummy...s egg grow into a baby.” If your child wants more details, it’s okay to provide them. (There’s a saying: If he’s old enough to ask, he’s old enough for the answer.) But however much it kills you to utter the words “penis in vagina,” try not to show your discomfort. If you’re not embarrassed, your kids won’t be either, though they may change the subject quickly — and that’s fine.
2. “What’s that string in your underwear?”
Since most little kids love to follow mum into the bathroom, it’s nearly impossible to hide evidence of your period. While it’s tempting to pretend your tampon string is a yo yo, you’ll have trouble keeping up any ruse month after month. Instead, try: “Grown-up women bleed a small amount every month but it doesn’t hurt. It’s actually a good thing, because it’s part of how women’s bodies work so they can make babies.” If your kid’s still curious, explain that your body releases an egg every month and your uterus prepares a cosy nest. When the egg is not fertilised, the uterus sheds its lining. How cool is that? (Admittedly, as a mother of two daughters, I tend to lay on the miracle of life stuff pretty thick, and why not? Our bodies really are amazing.)
3. “Why is your butt so squishy?”
Our kids spend a lot of time comparing their bodies to ours, and, God bless ’em, they have great observational skills. Friends of mine have reported being asked about their big nipples, loose skin, thick thighs and, yes, squishy bums. Preschoolers might even wonder aloud if you’ve got a baby in your belly when all you are smuggling is last night’s mac ‘n cheese. These unfiltered questions may seem insulting, but that’s not at all how they’re intended, so instead of taking offense, try to keep it positive. Try this: “When girls grow into women, their bodies get curvier. And I like my squishy butt — it’s great for sitting on!” Say it with a smile and you might just start believing it.
4. “Does your vagina have a mustache?”
Preschoolers seem fascinated (and maybe a little repulsed) by pubic hair and want to know more. The simple answer is that everyone grows more body hair when they grow up. What’s harder to explain these days is why some women have a full bush and others prefer a Brazilian wax, which, according to my 4-year-old’s description, her adult babysitter must be sporting. Talk about TMI!
5. “Why is Daddy’s penis bigger than mine?”
It turns out size does matter…at least, to preschool boys trying to figure out why they look different from their dads. Penis questions might make you want to call for back-up, but mums, you can handle this one with ease. Try this: “Your penis grows just like your arms and your legs and the rest of your body. So ALL of daddy’s body parts are bigger than yours right now.”
6. “What’s a virgin?”
We’re proud when our kids add new words to their growing vocabularies — except when those words make us deeply uncomfortable. Playmates’ older siblings, songs on the radio and primetime TV shows (thanks, “Jane the Virgin”!) are all sources of grown-up words and gestures that preschoolers will want defined. Try this: “When two grown-ups fall in love, they might choose to express their love in a physical way, by having sex. A virgin is someone who has not had that experience.” Word of caution: It’s smart to get context by asking how or where the word was used so you can give a satisfying answer without overwhelming your kid with extraneous details. In a funny short film, a preschooler’s “What’s a virgin?” query drives her flustered mum to explain the mechanics of sex, when in the end, it turns out the girl was curious about the bottle of “extra virgin” olive oil.
If you still feel uncomfortable having conversations like these with your preschooler, try practicing them with your partner first, preferably with a glass of wine and while lounging on your bed, which makes every moment in life more comfortable.
More Mum Truths:
- 9 Things I Judged Parents About Before I Had Kids
- Why I Let My Kid Be a Picky Eater
- I Refuse to Apologise for Being ‘Attached’ to My Daughter